2008 Christmas Eve Dinner

My 2008 Christmas Eve Dinner may very well be my last Christmas dinner for a while. I loved the menu and I loved cooking it and serving it and eating it, but it was a two day affair (three, if you count shopping), and it was exhausting. I also spent more time in the kitchen during the meal than I really wanted to. I’m also not sure that it made sense financially – taking my guests to a relatively nice restaurant would have probably been cheaper. But hey, it was a nice experience and the food was great.
This time dinner included Mike and I, our two daughter, my father & sister, and our friends Lola and Ignatius. Great company.
I started by serving a Mixed green salad with balsamic vinaigrette. I wanted to use the very expensive balsamic vinegar Mike got me for Xmas last year. The results were very good.
This was followed by Butternut squash soup with cider cream. Apparently my father has not stopped raving to my mother about the soup. Everyone else also said they liked it, and given that Mika (my 6.5 yo) had seconds, I’m inclined to believe them.
The third course consisted of panettini served with Hot artichoke & spinach dip and Mushroom ragout. Everyone loved the dip – I enjoyed the mushrooms. They’re both dishes I might make again (the dip definitely if Kathy, my sister, requests it again) – plus I now have a dish for it.
The fourth course was supposed to be Rost Rack of Lamb with Madeira Peppercon Reduction served with Toasted Israeli Couscous with Pine Nuts and Parsley, Roasted cauliflower and steamed broccoli. Alas, I neglected to trim the lamb, and it took much, much, much longer to cook than I imagined. Alas again, by the time I realized that, I had already served the sides – so the couscous turned out to be the fourth course. Fortunately, it was absolutely delicious.
The cauliflower wasn’t as successful. I’d cooked it in the toaster oven because I didn’t have the main oven was busy with the lamb (and I only have one oven). I removed it when it started to brown, and that apparently was too soon as it was undercooked. I had to throw out most of it.
It took quite a while for the lamb to hit the table, and I did have to cut it in individual chops in order to cook it quicker (which reminds me, I really need a carving knife), but it was absolutely delicious. I would definitely recommend serving it on the rare side of medium-rare (as I did by default). It was moist, tender and incredibly flavorful. I did buy it at a good butcher, Enzo’s Meat & Poultry’s in Rockridge, and at $17lb it was $4-5lb more expensive than the lamb at the supermarket & Costco. But it was domestic, which I wanted, and I think well worth the price. It couldn’t have been better.
The sauce, on the other hand, was a complete failure. On the one hand, it would have been a crime to cover the taste of the lamb with any kind of sauce. Really, I should have thought of that. On the other, the sauce itself wasn’t that good. I didn’t like the briny taste of the peppercorn, and I might have reduced the madeira too much because I thought it was almost bitter. Fortunately, I had the good sense of only putting a little bit on my plate.
Dinner ended with two desserts. I made a Low sugar apple-sauce for my dad, and everyone ended up loving it. It’s made with apple juice concentrate instead of sugar – but apples still have a lot of natural sugars, so it’s still not the best.
I also made Cornmeal cake with buttermilk ice cream. I don’t think this dessert was as popular as the other one, but I personally liked it very much. The cake was sweet and a tad dry, but the ice cream added the moisture it needed. They both definitely compliment each other very much – neither is as good by itself. The buttermilk ice cream was pretty good – it had great consistency, very creamy though dense (and not at all crystally), and its lemony taste is reminiscent of cheesecake. It’s definitely a dessert I’d recommend.
I had planned on serving hot chocolate with speculoos, a Belgian spice cookie I’d made the day before. IMHO, the speculoos were great, and the kids themselves loved them – but Lola didn’t seem to be very impressed. A couple of people ate one, but most of us were too full from dinner. I did leave some for Santa, who ate at least one 🙂
And that was dinner. We had a Treana viognier/marsanne wine with the earlier part of the meal and a Deloach Zinfandel with the latter part. The white was better than the red.-

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